Magazine article Opera Canada

Voices of Our Time

Magazine article Opera Canada

Voices of Our Time

Article excerpt

VOICES OF OUR TIME

Until the release of this ground-breaking series, Voices of our Time, art song and the vocal recital have not figured prominently on DVD. How odd, given that the DVD is perhaps the perfect medium for an art form that is, by its nature, so intimate. After all, what could be better than to immerse oneself in the poetry and music of a repertoire that was largely intended for performance in the salon? With subtitles also available in four languages--English, French, Italian and Spanish--one's enjoyment and understanding of the repertoire is considerably enhanced.

All six titles in this series--taped at the Chatelet in Paris and directed for television by Rodney Greenberg--use the same format. Individual songs or groups of songs are intercut with short, informative and often entertaining interviews with the featured singer, accompanist and, in one case, the composer. They articulate their thoughts on the music they are performing and provide a fascinating glimpse into the workings of each artist's mind and his or her approach to programming, performing and the music.

Collectively, this series provides a master class on how to put together a recital. Felicity Lott and Graham Johnson, for example, chose 24 time-sensitive songs by 24 composers, one for each hour of the day. Barbara Bonney and Malcolm Martineau chose Schumann's Dichterliebe (traditionally a male cycle) for the first half, and then created what they have called a "Scandinavian Dichterliebe" (including songs by Sibelius, Grieg, Stenhammar and Alfven) as the second half. Grace Bumbry put together a traditional mixed program of German Lieder in homage to her teacher, legendary soprano Lotte Lehmann. English tenor Ian Bostridge also sings a standard program of Lieder by Schubert and Wolf, but grouped it according to poet. Soprano Dawn Upshaw chose a demanding program of mainly contemporary American, French and Finnish music for her recital (which she delivers in a particularly winning manner), while her compatriot, soprano Sylvia McNair, chose French and Spanish songs largely because they are two languages she "loves to sing in." Also included in McNair's recital is a song-cycle by John Corigliano, based on poems by Bob Dylan and called Mr. Tambourine Man, which was commissioned for her. For a change in texture, she also gives her excellent accompanist. …

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